Throughout the past century we have seen many great champions of the women’s tennis circuit grace the courts of the world tour. Each champion has either set new milestones or beaten past records. With so many records and 100 years of champions it is difficult to determine the pecking order for all of these top players and this is always up for debate. In this article we look at the top five female players of all time and the achievements they made during their careers.
Serena Williams is for most the greatest tennis player to have ever played the women’s game. With the number of grand slam titles considered to be the key indicator it is however up for debate. At the time of writing this post Williams sits on 21 major titles, just 1 behind Steffi Graf and 3 behind Margaret Court on 24. Williams is still active on the tour and with her current level of form looks sure to reach that golden figure of 25.
Dominance is something that Williams has to her name. In 2015 she became the first ever world number 1 to hold double the ranking points of the world number 2. She could take the next 6 months off and still remain at the top of the women’s game and what is even more remarkable is the fact that she is still so dominant at the age of 34! She has twice achieved the “Grand Slam” (all 4 major titles at the same time). Serena Williams is in a league of her own and could have achieved even more than she has if she had travelled to more tour events. The Williams sisters have been rather selective of the events they take part in and the focus has always been on the slams. Williams is the top female tennis player and it is only a matter of time before she beats Court’s record for most grand slam titles. Her dominance at the age of 34 is remarkable and she looks set to be at the top of the women’s game for some years.
As already stated Margaret Court from Australia currently holds that all important record of most grand slam titles in the women’s game at 24. She turned professional in 1960 and dominated the 70s before retiring in 1977. Court also achieved the Calendar year “Grand Slam” in 1970 and is one of only 3 women to do this. Court dominated all surfaces winning 11 Australian Open, 5 French Open, 3 Wimbledon and 5 US Open titles.
Margaret Court not only prevailed on the singles circuit but also the doubles. She won 19 women’s doubles titles and 21 mixed giving her a grand total of 64 major titles. Court dominated her home tournament of the Australian Open. In the space of 14 years between 1960 and 1973 she took part in 11 Australian Open events, won 9 and made the final of the other. Court is one of 3 women to complete the “Boxed Set” which is all singles, all doubles and all mixed doubles grand slam titles. Over the coming years Serena Williams may beat the singles grand slam title record of the Australian but she will not come close to Court in the doubles.
Steffi Graf dominated the 90s and sits second in the all-time list of grand slam winners on 22 titles. With Williams hot on her wheels she still retains the title for most grand slam titles in the Open Era (1968 onwards when professional players were allowed to play the grand slams). She holds one record that no other player in either the men’s or women’s game has ever achieved and that is the “Golden Slam” which is all 4 majors in the same calendar year and a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Graf is also the only player to have won all 4 majors 4 times or more.
Despite being behind Court with the number of major titles to her name Graf has been named “the greatest female player of all time” by many tennis experts and former players including Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and the Tennis Channel. Steffi Graf retired in 1999 and shortly after married former men’s world number 1 Andre Agassi.
Martina Navratilova is 5th on the list for most major titles with 18 to her name and was the dominating force in women’s tennis prior to Graf. Navratilova’s career has really stood the test of time eventually retiring at the age of 49. Along with her grand slam singles titles she picked up 31 doubles majors and 10 mixed doubles. No player has won more doubles titles today. She also holds the record for most weeks with the number 1 world ranking at 332 weeks. Not only this but the longest winning streak of the Open Era belongs to Navratilova at 74 matches which spanned the majority of a tennis season from February to December. Despite finally retiring in 2006 Martina Navratilova stays close to tennis both in her commentary at the majors and her coaching of Polish star Agnieszka Radwanska.
Helen Wills Moody
Helen Wills Moody features on this list due to her dominance of 2 decades equaled only by Serena Williams. You have to go back to the 1920s to review her career and she was the first American sports woman to become a global sensation. She made the final or better at every grand slam tournament she entered. Wills Moody achieved 19 grand slam titles but with her level of dominance she could have surpassed the record of Margaret Court. She never played at the Australian Open and with her long career she would have almost certainly picked up additional grand slam titles had she made the journey. Wills Moody managed a winning streak of at least 158 matches (this is pre the Open Era) and in this streak she did not drop a set. Due to this streak and the 20 years spent at the top of the game Helen Wills Moody is thought to be the most dominant player of any tennis era.
Lee writes tennis match previews for World Tennis Trading. He is passionate about the sport and follows both the ATP & WTA tours throughout the year. He makes an income from the sport as a tennis trader.